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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need a financial adviser?
    Need is a pretty strong word. Could you benefit from a financial adviser? Sure you could. Who wouldn't benefit from someone knowledgable about finance? My career has been spent in the investment and finance world, yet I still bounce ideas off of trusted sources. Even if you have a great handle on your finances and have most things pretty well figured out, there's definitely some benefit in a skilled second opinion.
  • Do I need comprehensive financial planning?
    First off, comprehensive financial planning involves looking at your entire financial picture and helping to figure out what's working, what's missing, and what might need some tweaking. It helps ensure that all of the financial pieces of your life are working together. Do you need it? There's that need word again. My experience has been that few people have a complicated enough financial picture to really need comprehensive planning. It's mostly an industry buzzword to get clients locked into a bigger commitment and fee than they really need. Most people have a very good handle on some parts of their financial life but need some targeted help in others. Even if you feel you have a good handle on your finances, there's some value in having a skilled set of eyeballs look it over.
  • What kind of financial planning expert should I hire?
    It depends. If you're looking to better understand your emotional attachment to money and what impact your childhood had on current spending patterns and your ability to reach your goals, you might want to seek out a holistic financial planner for a group hug and some analysis. If you're looking for no-nonsense, practical advice, plenty of advisers purport to offer that. Just be sure that they have deep finance and investment experience and haven't just popped over to the financial planning world after a career in the automotive industry (though they might be able to offer great advice on car buying). If you just want to keep costs down and not spend much time, maybe go the psychic route. The advice might be as good as some planners, it just takes an hour, you won't have to bring any paperwork, the cost is lower, and you might also get some tips on your love life.
  • What's up with all those abbreviations and designations?
    You're unlikely to run across an adviser who doesn't have a bunch of letters after their name. As with any field, we all want the world to know that we're skilled and legitimate. You'll run across CFA, CFP, CPA, ChFC, CIC, FRM, CLU, CAIA... Actually, if you really want to get confused, go to this FINRA link for a list of over 200 designations. 200! I have a couple of these designations, and I picked mine becasue of their reputation. Here's the deal with all of these designations. They're a decent place to start, but they don't really mean much. There are plenty of advisers with plenty of designations that give plenty of poor advice. There are plenty of advisers without a long list of designations who do a really good job. Yes, some of these designations took much more work to earn and are more meaningful than others, but even those just tell you that the adviser was diligent enough to put in the effort to get the letters. So, sure, picking out some reputable designations to help with your search is fine, but it's just a start.
  • How is a financial planner paid?
    There are a variety of ways financial planners charge for their services. They may quote you a flat fee once you've agreed on the scope of work to be done. If they're going to be managing your investment accounts, they may charge you a percent of assets each year. They may charge an hourly rate. Some planners make money by selling investment or insurance products to you. Make sure you're perfectly clear on how and what your adviser is charging. For financial planning help, I mostly charge an hourly fee of $225 with a two hour minimum. I'll provide a firm quote after our initial discussion of the scope of work to be done. My investment advisory clients do not pay an extra fee for any planning-related help they may need.
  • I keep seeing "fee-only." What does that mean?"
    Fee-only means that the adviser's only compensation comes directly from you, the client. They do not receive commissions or referral fees from selling products to you, such as insurance, annuities, or investment funds. The intent is to keep the relationship and compensation as transparent as possible and to minimize the potential for conflicts of interest. Aspera is fee-only.
  • What questions should I ask when interviewing an adviser?
    What is your finance and investment experience? Tell me about your credentials and educational background? What services do you offer? Are you a fiduciary? Are you fee-only? Do you receive commissions or referral fees? What does your ideal client look like? Tell me about your investment philosophy? What does your process look like? How often will we meet? What information do I need to provide? Have you been subject to any regulatory or legal actions? This is a good starting point, but you should feel comfortable asking any questions. There are no stupid questions. Check out adviser websites and narrow it down to a few. Find an adviser with the skillset, services, and process that works for you.
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